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Coccidia in Dogs

If your dog or puppy is experiencing diarrhea that has an unusual, fungus-like smell, it could be a sign of a gastrointestinal problem called coccidia. This comprehensive guide provides essential information about coccidia in dogs, including its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention measures.

What Is Coccidia?

Coccidia, also referred to as canine Cystoisospora spp. (previously Isospora), is a type of protozoan parasite that has the potential to invade the gastrointestinal system of dogs. These minuscule parasites reside within the intestinal wall and are predominantly found in puppies, although they can also affect adult dogs and cats.


Here are the most typical indications of coccidia in dogs and puppies, along with potential signs of severe infection:

Symptoms of coccidia include:

  • Diarrhea that is watery, bloody, or contains mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration

Severe signs of coccidia in puppies and dogs comprise:

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Fatality

However, some dogs infected with coccidia may not display any symptoms. Despite being asymptomatic, these dogs can still shed coccidia’s egg-like structures in their feces, potentially infecting other dogs or puppies. Therefore, it is crucial for your dog to undergo fecal examinations during their annual and biannual veterinary visits.

How Do Dogs and Puppies Get Coccidia?

Dogs contract coccidia by consuming the oocyst (immature coccidia) from a contaminated environment, such as soil or feces containing coccidia.

Puppies are particularly vulnerable to coccidia infection because of their immature immune systems, especially when they encounter contaminated dog feces. This underscores the importance of multiple fecal examinations during puppy visits to the veterinarian.

Stressful situations like traveling or transitioning to a new home environment, immunosuppression, or existing chronic illnesses can increase a dog’s susceptibility to coccidia infection.

Can Dogs Get Coccidia From Sheep, Rabbits, or Cats?

Coccidia is usually specific to its host, indicating that dogs cannot contract the infection from the feces of other species such as sheep, rabbits, or cats. Nonetheless, dogs may become infected through predatory actions if they ingest another species.

Can Coccidia Be Transmitted From Dogs to Cats?

Dogs cannot transmit coccidia to cats, even if a cat comes into contact with the feces of a dog infected with coccidia. Coccidia in cats is caused by a different parasite that is specific to felines.

Can Humans Get Coccidia?

Humans cannot acquire coccidia from dogs as it is not a zoonotic disease.

Coccidia Treatment in Dogs and Puppies

Treating coccidia in dogs typically involves eliminating the parasite, which is a relatively straightforward process.

Get a Prescription From Your Vet to Treat Coccidia

To treat coccidia in dogs, it’s essential to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian. The only FDA-approved treatment for coccidia is sulfadimethoxine, which requires a veterinarian’s prescription. Additionally, other medications like ponazuril have demonstrated effectiveness in treating coccidia, supported by recent published research. While metronidazole can address diarrhea caused by coccidia, it does not eliminate the protozoan parasite from the body. Ensure to follow your veterinarian’s prescribed medications for your dog or puppy infected with coccidia. Avoid taking your dog to places like dog parks, boarding centers, and areas with high dog populations during treatment.

Clean Up After Your Dog

Coccidia can remain infectious in the environment for an extended period, potentially lasting several months. It’s crucial to meticulously clean up after your dog, including its feces and the surrounding ground. This practice helps prevent other dogs from exposure and reduces the risk of your dog getting reinfected. Use a bag and paper towels to remove as much feces as possible, followed by employing an antibacterial spray or bleach to eliminate any remaining bacteria.

How to Prevent Coccidia in Dogs and Puppies

Regular fecal exams conducted by a veterinarian are the most effective method for detecting coccidia. These exams should be part of your dog’s annual check-up or if they exhibit symptoms, particularly diarrhea.

Avoid environments where dogs or puppies are known to be infected with coccidia. If your dog is a puppy, steer clear of high-risk areas like dog parks. Arrange puppy playdates with healthy dogs in controlled and safe environments to minimize the risk of exposure to coccidia.

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